Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture Relieves Post-Stroke Anxiety & Depression

Acupuncture relieves anxiety and depression experienced by stroke patients. Researchers from the Shanghai University of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) investigated the efficacy of acupuncture and medications for the treatment of post-stroke anxiety and depression. Scalp acupuncture and face acupoints. The SSRI (serotonin reuptake inhibitor) drug sertraline demonstrated a 73.3% total efficacy rate. Conventional acupuncture achieved an 80% total effective rate. Another group received a treatment protocol of Sun Si-Miao’s ghost acupoints combined with sertraline. The combination group achieved a 93.3% total effective rate. The researchers concluded that the combination of acupuncture with drug therapy is safe and effective for the treatment of anxiety and depression due to post-stroke syndrome.

Sertraline is an antidepressant used for the treatment of depression, panic attacks, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Common side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, insomnia, decreased libido, inability to have an orgasm, constipation, and stomach pain. The group receiving sertraline received dosages ranging between 25 and 75 mg/day based on the condition and severity of side effects.

The conventional acupuncture group received needling at acupuncture points including:

  • DU20, Baihui
  • Taiyang (extra point)
  • SJ5, Waiguan
  • LI4, Hegu
  • GB30, Huantiao
  • GB20, Fengchi
  • GB34,Yanglingquan
  • GB39, Xuanzhong
  • BL60, Kunlun

Manual stimulation of the acupuncture needles was used to obtain deqi and the needles were retained for twenty minutes per each acupuncture session. For both the conventional acupuncture group and the ghost point acupuncture group, acupuncture was applied five times per week with a break on the weekends. Total treatment duration was four weeks. 

The ghost point group received needling at selections from the thirteen ghost points of Sun Si-Miao as delineated in the great 7th century work Thousand Ducat Formulas. The ghost acupoints are traditionally applied for the treatment of various indications including mental illness. The acupoints include:

More scalp and face points.

  • DU26, Renzhong
  • DU16, Fengfu
  • DU23, Shangxing
  • CV24, Chengqiang
  • LU11, Shaoshang
  • LIII, Quchi
  • ST6, Jiache
  • SP1, Yinbai
  • PC7, Daling
  • PC8, Laogong
  • BL62, Shenmai
  • Haiquan (extra)
  • Yumentou, Yinxiafeng (CV1)

Fast needle insertion was applied with 25 mm filiform needles. Needles were not retained after obtaining deqi.

Each group was comprised of 30 patients for a total of 90 patients in the study. The researchers concluded that ghost point acupuncture combined with the SSRI sertraline is highly effective for the treatment of post-stroke anxiety and depression. The combined protocol was more effective than either acupuncture or drug therapy as a standalone procedure. In addition, acupuncture minimized side effects caused by ingestion of the medication.

In related research, Zhou-xin et al. examined the role of acupuncture in post-stroke brain nerve regeneration. The researchers noted that following cerebral ischemia, a condition due to restricted blood flow to the brain, acupuncture “promote(s) the proliferation and differentiation of neural stem cells in the brain… accelerate(s) angiogenesis and inhibit(s) apoptosis.” The researchers note that the Conception Vessel (Ren channel) and Governing Vessel (Du channel) are effective acupuncture meridians to “prevent and treat neural injuries following cerebral ischemia.”

Duan JY, Ding BY & Zong L. (2014). Clinical Observation of Acupuncture at the Thirteen Ghost Acupoints for Post-stroke Anxiety and Depression. World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry Guidelines for the Pharmacological Treatment of Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders. Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 33(6).

Xiang WQ, He YL & Zhang MY. (2003). Chinese Mental Health Journal. 17(7): 485-507.

Zhou-xin Yang, Peng-dian Chen, Hai-bo Yu, Wen-shu Luo, Yong-Gang Wu, Min Pi, Jun-hua Peng, Yong-feng Liu, Shao-yun Zhang, Yan-hua Gou. Research advances in treatment of cerebral ischemic injury by acupuncture of conception and governor vessels to promote nerve regeneration. Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine, Jan. 2012. vol. 10, 1. Department of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Shenzhen Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, Guangdong Province, China.